Kids Health Info

Dysarthria

  • Dysarthria is the term used to describe the impaired speech pattern caused by brain or nerve damage to the speech muscles. A speech pathologist can assess a child's speech and provide treatment and strategies to help the child and their family.

    Dysarthria can result in paralysis, weakness or lack of coordination of the muscles of the tongue, lips, palate, jaw and larynx. It can also affect breathing. Therefore, dysarthria may involve problems in more than one area of speech, such as breathing, articulation, rhythm, rate or resonance of voice.

    Possible symptoms

    Dysarthric speech may be characterised by:

    • slowed speech
    • slurred speech that is not clear
    • excessively soft or loud speech, or difficulties controlling speech volume
    • impaired voice quality - hoarse, nasal, breathy qualities
    • effortful speech caused by a lack of breath control
    • reduced control of pitch - speech may be monotone, high or low pitched
    • difficulty articulating longer words.

    Dysarthric speech can range from mild to severely impaired, where a person's speech may no longer be understood.

    Diagnosis

    A speech pathologist can assess your child's speech and provide appropriate treatment to help specific difficulties. Assessment often involves watching your child at meal times, listening to their speech and doing an oral-motor examination which includes your child making different movements with their mouth and tongue.

    Treatment

    Treatment for dysarthria may involve specific exercises to improve the strength, range and rate of movements of affected muscles as well as providing strategies to help lessen the effects of the dysarthria. The speech pathologist will also consider whether your child can use strategies to make their speech clearer such as:

    • looking at the person while talking
    • taking a breath before speaking
    • slowing down speech rate
    • speaking in shorter sentences with regular pauses.

    The speech pathologist will work closely with your child's family, school and significant carers to help make communication easier. This may include tips such as:

    • letting your child know what parts of the message have been understood and which parts need clarification
    • asking your child to show you what they want
    • allowing more time to listen to your child's response.

    If a child's speech is very impaired, the speech pathologist can teach them to use another communication system to express themselves. This may include gestures, signing, picture symbols, a voice output device or writing to convey a message.

    Key points to remember

    • Dysarthria is the term used to describe the impaired speech pattern caused by brain or nerve damage to the speech muscles.
    • A speech pathologist can assess a child's speech and provide appropriate treatment to assist with any specific areas of difficulty.
    • If a child's speech is very impaired, a speech pathologist will usually recommend the use of an alternative communication system to help the child express themselves.

    For more information

     

    Developed by the RCH  Paediatric Rehabilitation Service. Based on the Dysarthria factsheet from the Brain Injury Service at Westmead Children's Hospital (with permission). First published Nov 2006. November 2010.

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Disclaimer
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.